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The food you eat can have a large impact on your mental health. While certain foods can have negative effects on the brain, others can improve your cognitive abilities. Research has shown that fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi and kefir, are good for the brain.
How do fermented foods benefit the brain? Fermented foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is essential for the production of serotonin, a chemical that carries messages between nerve cells. Serotonin is involved in various brain and body functions, including mood, cognition, learning, memory, and sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, and blood clotting. In addition, other brain messengers (known as neurotransmitters) may be present in fermented foods. Growing evidence suggests that eating fermented foods may provide various short- and long-term benefits on brain health, such as reducing stress.
A research team from APC Microbiome, University College Cork, Ireland, is working on a study to find out which foods are most beneficial to brain health. They are studying over 200 fermented foods from all over the world.
Preliminary results of the study showed that almost all of the fermented foods have the ability to improve gut and brain health. However, they particularly mentioned fermented sugar-based products and fermented vegetable-based products for their positive effects on gut and brain health.
Ramya Balasubramanian, one of the researchers, explained that when fermented, sugar in the food is converted into a plethora of metabolites that can have a beneficial effect on brain and gut health.
A 2015 study led by William & Mary researchers found reduced social anxiety symptoms among young adults who eat more fermented foods, with the greatest effect seen among those at genetic risk for social anxiety disorder.
Published in the journal Psychiatry Research, the study suggested that the probiotics in the fermented foods may trigger favorable changes in the gut environment, which in turn influence social anxiety.
Another study by researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine found eating fermented foods associated with an increase in the diversity of gut microbes and decrease molecular signs of inflammation. Participants were assigned to a diet rich in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, fermented cottage cheese, kimchi and other fermented vegetables, vegetable brine drinks, and kombucha tea.
Fermented foods are packed with lactic acid bacteria, which generate an acid in the digestive tract. This acid binds well to HCA3 receptors, proteins found in immune cells, which help boost your immune system. Research also suggests that some fermented foods (Sauerkraut and kimchi) have high vitamin C content that helps reduce your risk of catching an infection.
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